Gothic Novels – WoodChipper and GenderPosted by on Sunday, April 15th, 2012 at 10:54 pm
Exploring how well gothic texts fall into gender categories, we discussed some of the indicators of male gothic (blatant horror, emphasis on intuition) and female gothic (suspicion/terror, emphasis on reason). To see if WoodChipper offered any insights, we ran two female texts (Frankenstein and The Mysteries of Udolpho) and two male ones (The Vampyre and The Monk) at first, but then felt a little overwhelmed with the high concentration of feedback (without a peel-back option, it was a bit difficult to see all four texts accurately represented).
We tried again, with only two texts at a time, pairing Monk with Udolpho for contrast and Frankenstein and Udolpho for comparison. Both runs revealed categories that had a lot of overlap – “mind, heart, tears, grief, seemed” (we called this Sentiment) and “felt, made, conduct, received, heart” (we struggled with this one, it seems a mix of Reflection/Character/Interiority/Decision-Making… or, for the purposes of this post, “Indeterminable.” Strangely enough, in a moment of reckless abandonment, we Googled the terms to see associations – below is a result from the first page!).
At any rate, we noted with interest the massive pull toward Nature in Udolpho, whereas Monk’s was much less. However, apparently Monk is much shorter than Udolpho, which might skew the results…? It was interesting to see how strong the correlation was between Monk and Udolpho’s pull toward Sentiment and the “Indeterminable” category, with a lot of crossover.
This crossover was evident again in the Udolpho/Frankenstein run, but mainly in Udolpho, whereas Frankenstein had an unsurprising Existence category (“life, death, existence, mind, heart”) which crossed with Sentiment much more than Udolpho. So, a tentative conclusion might be that while both female gothic novels contain similar bents toward Sentiment, the source/correlative for such varies (Udolpho associates more with the “Indeterminable” category and Frankenstein more with Existence).
One last interesting run (I don’t want to take them all!) was Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and The Monk. It was interesting to see how much more Jane Eyre followed Monk, whereas Wuthering Heights seemed more clustered. All three had strong Love (“love, heart, loved, world, happy”) clustering, which completely overlaid the “Indeterminable” category. However, where Wuthering Heights stays pretty much within the bounds of the Love topic, the other two texts tracked out toward the “Indeterminable” category. All three also had crossover between Love/”Indeterminable” category and the Physical (“hand, eyes, face, looked, hands”).
So far, I’ve found myself more interested in the topic crossover fields in the splash patterns, mainly because they seem to offer associations within texts (is Love associated with Nature or Physicality?). Some seem obvious (Frankenstein’s mix of Existence and Sentiment), but others were more perplexing (Udolpho’s fairly strong Nature and “Indeterminable” crossover in the Udolpho/Monk run). I’m admittedly at a slight disadvantage, since I haven’t read The Mysteries of Udolpho, so I’m unable to qualify my results. The one troubling aspect we’ve encountered with WoodChipper is the inability to choose what topics appear – we have to let the texts guide us with our inquiry, drawing (shaky) conclusions from the results that appear, which may or may not align with our hypotheses (I’m thinking of our pre-run gender categories). However, this may be a good thing, as it allows the potential for new discoveries instead of merely telling us what we already know. We shall see…